17.10.18

Kaduna lights-up as ‘Centenary’ 2018 Polo Tourney enters 4th day


Tuesday sixteenth October 2018 marked day 4 of the ongoing Centenary Celebrations at the Kaduna Polo Club. The day was tagged Equestrian day and the major higlight was the Georgian Cup match, a showdown between El Amin polo team led by Mohammed Babangida and Imani Polo Team led by Suleiman Abubakar. The El Amin team featuring Bello Buba, Pedro and Santiago were comfortable winners as they scored 12 goals to Imani’s 7 goals after SIX chuckers. The event was well attended with dignitaries from all over the country and special guests from far and wide.

Today is the midway point of the tournament and is tagged ‘Gastronomy Day’ with a special celebration of food and drink being showcased.

If your’re a fan of polo or just seeking some fun and entertainment then Kaduna Polo Club is the place to be. The tournament ends on Sunday 21st October with a centenary cup match.

(NTA)

One in 10 potential Florida voters can’t legally vote. Amendment 4 could change that.

Amendment 4 could be the most significant expansion of voting rights in America in decades.

Amendment 4 gives Florida voters a chance to restore voting rights for most people in the state convicted of felonies.

Florida may be on the verge of extending the right to vote to as many as 1.4 million people.

With Amendment 4, Florida voters have a chance to dramatically scale back one of the nation’s harshest voting laws for people with felony records. As it stands today, the great majority of people convicted of felonies in Florida can’t vote — even after they’ve finished their sentences (whether that entailed prison, probation, or something else).

Amendment 4 would change that, automatically restoring a person’s right to vote after they complete their sentences, with exceptions for people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses.

“At the end of the day, when a debt is paid, it’s paid,” said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has campaigned for Amendment 4. “We all want to be forgiven,” he added, referencing his own felony record.

In 2016, the Sentencing Project estimated that 6.1 million people convicted of felonies can’t vote in the US, including many still in prison, on probation, or on parole, and some who have completed their sentences. Florida, with its harsh law, made up more than a quarter of that total — with 1.6 million people in the state barred from voting in 2016. In total, more than 10.4 percent of Florida’s voting-age population couldn’t vote due to a felony record. (The national numbers are likely outdated because some states have relaxed their laws since 2016. But Florida, with its law still in place, remains a big outlier.)

So if Amendment 4 does pass, it will amount to the most significant expansion of voting rights in America in decades — since the women’s suffrage movement and federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What Florida’s Amendment 4 would do

Florida’s Amendment 4 would restore voting rights for people in the state convicted of felonies as long as they have completed their sentences, although anyone convicted of murder or felony sex offenses would be excluded.

Based on the Sentencing Project’s 2016 estimates, this would benefit more than a million people. The organization estimated in 2016 that nearly 1.5 million people in Florida have completed felony sentences but can’t vote — about 9.2 percent of the voting-age population in Florida. The total, though, includes some people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses, so not every one of those people would benefit under Amendment 4.

Black people, who are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated, would stand to benefit the most. In 2016, more than 418,000 black people out of a black voting-age population of more than 2.3 million, or 17.9 percent of potential black voters in Florida, had finished sentences but couldn’t vote due to a felony record, according to the Sentencing Project. (Again, this includes some people convicted of murders and felony sex offenses.)

The amendment is officially supported by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which gathered more than 1.1 million petitions to put it on the ballot. It’s received bipartisan endorsements from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Koch brothers–backed Freedom Partners.

Public support for Amendment 4 seems very strong. Two polls this year from the University of North Florida found support at 71 percent — surpassing the 60 percent that the measure would need to pass. Another survey, from North Star Opinion Research and EMC Research, found 74 percent support.

But one survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce earlier this year found only 40 percent support, with 43 percent undecided and 17 percent opposed. So far, this is an outlier compared to the other public polls done on the issue.

Florida has one of the strictest felony disenfranchisement laws in the US

One reason so many people stand to benefit from Amendment 4 is that Florida has one of the strictest disenfranchisement laws in the country for people convicted of felonies.

Most states have at least some voting restrictions for people convicted of felonies. Most often, the law bars people who are currently in prison from voting. Some prohibit voting until a person finishes parole or probation, too.

Florida, however, bars people from voting even after they’ve completed their sentences. Only two other states — Kentucky and Iowa — currently do this. Virginia technically does under its constitution, but former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and current Gov. Ralph Northam (D) have used their executive powers to restore voting rights to those convicted of felonies.

Only Maine and Vermont let people vote regardless of their criminal record, which means that people in the two states can even vote from prison.

Courts, including the US Supreme Court, have generally upheld such voting restrictions under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which suggests that the government may abridge the right to vote due to “participation in rebellion, or other crime.”

In Florida, there is a process in place for getting voting rights restored. But the process, set up by Gov. Rick Scott (R), is very arduous. It requires people to wait as long as seven years to apply, and the application review itself can take several additional years. Even after someone applies, restoration of voting rights is far from guaranteed: According to the Florida Commission on Offender Review, only 3,005 of more than 30,000 applicants have had their voting rights restored through the system since Scott implemented it.

As a result, Florida disenfranchises more potential voters than any other state, with more than 10 percent of all potential voters and more than 21 percent of potential black voters in Florida unable to vote due to felony records.

This affects a wide group of people, down to Floridians convicted of certain traffic crimes and nonviolent offenses. Amendment 4, supporters argue, is about giving these people a second chance.

Susanne Manning, a probationer with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, recalled a restoration case she’s working on: a military veteran who hasn’t been able to vote in the 19 years since his release from prison after getting caught driving with a suspended license, which can be charged as a felony after repeat offenses in Florida.

Amendment 4 “is going to affect people who have been waiting forever,” she said. “People who have done their time. People who have finished their sentence, done their probation, paid their court costs, paid their fines, paid their restitution — and have still been waiting.”

For supporters of Amendment 4, it’s a philosophical argument about second chances: After someone has done their time, shouldn’t they be able to transition back to society?

Amendment 4 has little serious opposition

So far, no official campaign has formed against Amendment 4 — a sign that the measure has very little in the way of serious opposition.

But there are some critics.

Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy, a conservative group, posted a short blog post criticizing the initiative last year. The post largely complained about Amendment 4 failing to differentiate between different kinds of people affected, claiming that, besides murder and felony sex offenses, the measure “treats many other violent crimes no differently than non-violent crimes” and “makes no distinction between one-time offenders and career criminals.”

Gov. Scott, who’s currently running for Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, has suggested that he would prefer handling the restoration of voting rights on a case-by-case basis, through which people convicted of felonies have to show that they’re truly rehabilitated before they earn back their right to vote.

“The governor believes that in order for felons to have their rights restored, they have to demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime, show a willingness to request to have their rights restored and show restitution to the victims of their crime,” a spokesperson for Scott’s Senate campaign told the News Service of Florida.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican running for Florida governor against Democrat Andrew Gillum, shares similar views, according to a spokesperson.

The criticism is essentially a defense of the current system (which was, after all, set up by Scott). But as shown since it was implemented, the current system is sluggish: It fails to restore voting rights for the great majority of people in Florida convicted of felonies. It’s also out of line with what most states do, since most automatically restore voting rights upon the completion of a sentence.

It’s no coincidence that Republican and conservative groups are the most resistant. Because black people are disproportionately disenfranchised by these kinds of laws, and because black people tend to vote Democrat, there is a sense that Amendment 4 would be a boost to Democrats politically. In a swing state where a presidential election came down to a few hundred votes, this is a big deal.

But Amendment 4 supporters push back against that. They point out that 29.6 percent of those disenfranchised by the law in Florida today are black. While that is a disproportionate amount relative to the state’s population of black people (16.9 percent), it’s still a minority.

“I’m fighting just as hard for that guy who wants to vote for Donald Trump as the one who wishes he could have voted for President Obama,” Meade said. “It doesn’t matter how someone’s going to vote. If our decision whether or not to support something is based on how we think people are going to vote, there’s something wrong there.”

Still, there is some evidence that Amendment 4 would favor Democrats. As Ari Berman wrote in Mother Jones, “Of the ex-­felons granted clemency under [former Gov. Charlie] Crist, 26 percent, or 40,000, registered to vote in the 2012 election, with 59 percent registering as Democrats, according to research by University of Pennsylvania professor Marc Meredith and Harvard doctoral candidate Michael Morse.”

Some criminal justice reformers oppose Amendment 4

Another source of opposition — a bit of a surprising one — is a certain set of criminal justice reformers.

Paul Wright, founder of the Human Rights Defense Center in Florida, made a case against Amendment 4 in an op-ed for the Tallahassee Democrat because it excludes people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses. Wright, who was previously convicted of first-degree felony murder in 1987 in Washington state, argued that if the amendment is really about extending second chances to people, that should apply to everyone, not just some.

“We don’t think that you fight discrimination and bigotry by perpetuating it and embracing it,” Wright told me. “I’m one of the people targeted for exclusion, and so far no one can tell me why I shouldn’t be able to vote.”

Wright said that if Amendment 4 passes, it will be difficult to get another opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment — which, like Amendment 4, would require 60 percent of voters to pass — that would allow the restoration of voting rights for people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses.

“Realistically, do you see anyone spending $15 million so murderers and sex offenders can get the right to vote?” he said, referencing the millions raised for Amendment 4. “And then who’s going to vote for it?”

It’s a solidarity argument: By excluding some of the criminal justice population, the ballot initiative has excluded some of the people who could have been lifted by a broader rising tide.

But supporters of Amendment 4 argue that if they had included the restoration of voting rights for people convicted of murder and felony sex offenses, the ballot initiative would have failed in front of voters. While some Amendment 4 supporters would like to restore everyone’s voting rights, or never take those rights away in the first place, they argue that Amendment 4 is at least an improvement over the current law in Florida.

“Florida is a difficult state to work with, a difficult state to actually run a citizen’s initiative,” Meade said. “We were very intentional in making sure that we were having conversations with Floridians — because at the end of the day, if the voters don’t want something, we’re not going to get it.”

Manning, for her part, goes back to the military veteran who’s been unable to vote for 19 years since his release due to what amounts to a felony traffic violation. At the very least, Amendment 4 will help him and others like him.

“When your debt is paid, it’s paid,” she said. “You should not be punished for the rest of your life.”

source: vox

How meditation and psychedelic drugs could reduce political partisanship

Yes, seriously.

What if I told you that the solution to political tribalism was astonishingly — almost embarrassingly — simple?

Maybe, just maybe, it all comes down to believing that everything is one.

According to a series of new studies on the belief in oneness by Kate Diebels and Mark Leary, psychologists at Duke University, the basic way we understand the universe, and our place in it, goes a long way in determining how we relate to other people. By “oneness,” the authors mean a belief that everything in the world is part of the same whole, and that the illusion of separation is just that — an illusion.

And it turns out “belief in the oneness of everything,” as they put it, is a profound and potentially revolutionary perspective for these awful times.

It’s impossible to talk about “oneness” without careening into hippy-dippy platitudes about peace and love and harmony on earth. I get it. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that our lack of oneness, our inability to see the world through the eyes of other people, to find some ground for mutual understanding, is likely our biggest moral failure.

If simply changing our orientation to the world could radically transform our politics, we should know about it, even if we can’t quite achieve it. Plus, there is actual science to back this up, so it isn’t merely an exercise in metaphysics.

So in that spirit, let’s take a look at the research, its implications, and two tools that might help us cultivate oneness right now.

The power of belief

If “belief in the oneness of everything” sounds fuzzy, well, that’s because it is. But it’s a perfectly sensible worldview.

Scientists like Albert Einstein and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama have argued that everything that exists is fundamentally connected, interdependent, part of the same substance or process, and that the sense of separation we feel is an illusion born of self-consciousness.

We can certainly debate whether or not this is true, but an even more intriguing question is what are the consequences of believing it? Until now, we haven’t had a reliable test of this proposition.

Diebels and Leary published two related studies in the June 2018 issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology with a total of 513 participants. In the first one, they established how often their participants actually thought about “oneness”: 20.3 percent of participants replied “often” or “many times,” while 25.9 percent said “seldom” and 12.5 percent had “never” thought about it.

They created a scale to measure belief in oneness, which consisted of the following six items:

Beyond surface appearances, everything is fundamentally one.

Although many seemingly separate things exist, they all are part of the same whole.

At the most basic level of reality, everything is one.

The separation among individual things is an illusion; in reality everything is one.

Everything is composed of the same basic substance, whether one thinks of it as spirit, consciousness, quantum processes, or whatever.

The same basic essence permeates everything that exists.

To gauge belief, they asked each participant to rate how easy it was for them to believe each of the six statements on a 5-point scale (1 = very difficult for me to believe this is true, 5 = very easy for me to believe this is true). The higher a person scored, the less solipsistic they were, which is to say, their identity extended beyond themselves to include the broader world. But not just with the natural world; they also felt more connected to other people, people they’ve never met.

If the primary obstacle to empathy is an incapacity to identify with someone else’s experience, it’s easy to see how viewing the world in this way might resolve — or at least mitigate — that problem.

The second study explored how someone’s value system was impacted by belief in oneness. They found, unsurprisingly, that greater compassion for other human beings scaled with the intensity of the belief in oneness. So the more someone believed that everyone and everything was connected, the more likely they were to recognize the humanity they shared with other people.

Leary, one of the researchers involved, is careful not to overstate the significance of the findings. “Although believing in oneness is clearly associated with personal and social benefits,” he told me, “strictly speaking, we do not know for certain that having a belief in oneness causes these beneficial effects.”

“It’s possible that people who come more easily to such a belief differ from people who don’t,” he added, “so that they are already more concerned about other people and the natural world even before developing the belief.”

To say definitively that belief in oneness is the cause of an extended empathic circle, participants would need to be randomly exposed or not exposed to arguments that might change their beliefs. But the evidence we have now is tantalizingly suggestive.

So what are the political implications of all this?

Antidotes to tribalism

Phrases like “tribalism” and “identity politics” are probably overused these days, and their application often obscures more than it reveals. But we definitely have a problem. A 2016 Pew Research Center study, for example, showed that roughly 40 percent of Republicans and Democrats believe the other party’s policies are so dangerous that they pose an existential threat to the nation.

This divide mostly manifests across party lines, but that’s because our system is designed to activate that particular identity. The cleavages run much, much deeper than party, and you can break them down along a number of dimensions — race, geography, income, education, etc. When group identities solidify, everyone outside our immediate experience can become an “other,” a member of some out-group whose well-being has nothing to do with our own.

Even as parties appear more ideologically diverse than they once did, contempt for the other side has only intensified. Much of this is the result of living in a fragmented information landscape, in which news consumption is tantamount to shopping. If you have a particular worldview or are invested in a particular ideological story, you know where to go to have that worldview and story beamed back at you — conservatives go to Fox News, liberals to MSNBC.

Where, then, does that leave us?

Tribalism feels like an intractable problem, something that runs so deep it’s not clear what we can do about it. But the research above points toward something like a solution, namely getting more people to believe that everything is one.

The question now is how do we cultivate belief in oneness?

When I asked Leary this question, he said we ought to do it the way we would any other belief: “teach people the merits of believing it.” And you can make the case for oneness on secular, scientific, or spiritual grounds, meaning it can be tailored to people with different preexisting beliefs.

Psychedelics and meditation

Allow me to suggest two additional remedies: psychedelics and meditation.

In his latest book about psychedelics, Michael Pollan argues that we face two enormous and related problems as a society right now. The first is an environmental crisis, which he says stems from our perceived distance from nature. For all its trappings, the modern technocratic world has encouraged us to treat nature as an object, something to be mastered and instrumentalized.

The second problem is tribalism, or our impulse to reduce the world to a zero-sum contest between “us” and “them.” Both of these problems are about disconnectedness. As Pollan told me in an interview, they’re “about seeing the other, whether that other is a plant or an animal, or a person of another faith or another race, as objects.”

But if you can step back and view the world as alive, as something of which you’re a small part, and if you can see fellow human beings as sharing that condition, then it becomes much more personally painful to abuse the planet or mistreat other people.

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay for Vox about my own experience with ayahuasca, a plant concoction that contains the natural hallucinogen known as DMT. It exploded my emotional barriers and, for a moment at least, connected me to something much bigger than myself. I’m still not sure what that thing was, or what it meant — all I can say is that I felt unimportant and totally liberated from the petty vanities that normally dominate my consciousness.

This experience wasn’t a psychological panacea. My ego persists, and checking it remains a daily — often losing — battle. But the event altered my self-understanding at a deep, instinctual level, and the more we learn about the neuroscience of psychedelics, the more common this experience seems to be.

Robert Wright has made a similar argument about the power of meditation in his book Why Buddhism Is True. “One of the things that’s most lacking in the world is not emotional empathy, it’s cognitive empathy,” he told me in a recent interview. Emotional empathy is more about sharing a physical feeling with someone, as though their emotions were contagious, whereas cognitive empathy is about understanding another person’s perspective. “We have trouble seeing things from the point of view of other people,” he says. “That is more urgently needed than emotional empathy.”

Meditation is a corrective to this problem. By focusing your mind on the present, you start to see your thoughts and emotions as fleeting waves. Which is why seasoned meditators often experience a loss of the sense of self and a greater awareness of other people, and other forms of consciousness.

Buddhist philosophy holds that the “self” is illusory and that our suffering is the result of clinging to impermanent objects, like feelings and thoughts. For Buddhists, the belief in a fixed self traps you in a delusion about who and what you are. If you meditate long enough, if you pay attention to your moment-to-moment experience, this story dissolves and you discover that all things are fundamentally interdependent.

Losing a sense of self, some Buddhists argue, is not the same as feeling oneness with the whole world. You could just as easily conclude that life is interdependent in the sense that life depends on other life for survival, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all is one. Regardless, using psychedelics (ideally with a trained guide) or practicing meditation as a means to drop the illusion of selfhood puts you halfway to realizing that other people aren’t so “other.”

But this is hard to do. We’re stuck with brains that evolved under very different conditions: For most of human history, we lived in small groups, and as a result, we’re wired to see the world in tribal terms. Tribalism is just a collective outgrowth of egoism; it’s about placing a wall between one group and another, just as the ego places a wall between an individual and the world.

No, this won’t fix everything

There are real fights in the world over resources and power and how these goods ought to be distributed in society. These disputes, and the values driving them, are unlikely to fade away. Indeed, if everyone valued the same things equally, there would be no need for politics in the first place.

But there is utility in understanding what a less tribal world would look like and how we might build it. We have these tools right in front of us, tools that expand consciousness and cut through the illusion of selfhood, and now we have evidence that shows their potentially transformative effects.

As Leary told me, “for people who wish to promote more egalitarian views in society, this research suggests that fostering beliefs in the fundamental oneness of all things — or at least in the oneness of all living things — may nudge people’s sentiments in a more positive direction.”

Moral and political principles are based on a whole range of more fundamental beliefs about other people and how the world works. If this research is right, “oneness” is one of these core beliefs, and we should do everything we can to teach and cultivate it.

Does that mean everyone should shoehorn LSD into their morning cereal? Absolutely not. In the long run, meditation is a safer and more sustainable path to self-transcendence.

Maybe it’s quixotic to say that the world would be less atomized and more compassionate if everyone meditated and took psychedelics, but that doesn’t make it untrue. On the contrary, there’s every reason to believe that that’s exactly what would happen.

source: vox

Cherokee Nation citizens like me are used to people claiming our heritage. It’s exhausting.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

We are fed up with people like Elizabeth Warren claiming Native heritage.

Growing up in a predominantly Native American area of rural Oklahoma, it was almost unheard of for someone who wasn’t Native to claim our ancestry. For us, that would have spurred a communal backlash. Everyone knew everyone, and to make such a claim would have been seen as seen as dishonest or nefarious.

On Monday, I awoke to the news that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had provided the results of a DNA test to prove she was in fact Native American. I felt the immediate pangs of dread. As the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix — the nation’s oldest Native newspaper founded in 1828 — I’m constantly fielding requests from people trying to track down their heritage. I’m also constantly getting emails from angry tribal citizens wanting to report someone who is fictitiously claiming to be Native American.

This is our reality. We are faced with an onslaught of people who have never lived in our shoes saying, “Those are my shoes too,” simply because they spit into a small hermetically sealed glass tube and got back DNA results that say they are 7 percent Native American.

Too often, Native Americans hear the words “I took a DNA test and …” Too often, our heritage and racial identity has been coopted by others for monetary gain, to claim some exoticism in their identity, or simply because someone wanted an excuse to wear a really pretty Halloween costume. But Native identity is not just about tracing a distant ancestor back to our tribe. It’s about cultural heritage, our shared experiences, and participating in our community.

People claiming Native heritage is something we deal with all the time

I’m often amazed at the lengths some people will go to in order to become “Native American.” Our newspaper has reported on groups that create fake organizations under tribal-sound names: For under $100, a person with no claim to Native American heritage is given a bogus membership card and walk away with the mindset that they are Native.

They post on online forums as Natives, they wear regalia from Eastern tribes mixed with Western tribes, they even go so far to start community groups and give themselves “Native” names that are often so laughable and stereotypical they cease to be insulting.

Our identity isn’t present in a faux buckskin outfit or a “Made in China” headdress. It is in our communities, it is in the words of our elders and the faces of our children. It goes beyond whom our ancestors were — it dictates how we live, how we raise our children, and who we are as a people.

For Cherokee Nation citizens to be recognized as such, we must retrace our roots back to a family member who signed the Dawes Roll, essentially a turn-of-the-century census for Cherokees. This is considered a legal status as we are members of a sovereign nation within the borders of the United States. But Warren has never claimed actual citizenship in our tribe. She has infringed on this without evidence or understanding that it takes more than a DNA test to claim an identity.

Warren’s actions could further encourage this behavior

I understand why Warren released her DNA profile to the masses; she has been dogged by scandal since proclaiming she was in fact “Native American” based on her family’s oral history. President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to Warren with the very racist moniker “Pocahontas” during several of his rallies. She is attempting to put to rest the only question mark on her otherwise upstanding character, but at what cost?

Warren made her DNA claims to stop the name calling. But she, in my opinion, has propped up a growing sect of people who think they can rely solely on a DNA test to confirm their identities. A DNA test will not explain the struggle or plight your ancestors had to go though to make it to a rough patch of dusty earth in exchange for their ancestral homelands. A DNA test will not help you determine what language your ancestors spoke, the food they ate, or where they essentially originated.

The Cherokee Nation is currently on the precipice of a court case decision that could have devastating consequences to our tribe. This month, a judge in Texas struck down a law governing the adoptions of Native American children by Native families as unconstitutional. Events surrounding Warren’s claims only add confusion to an already complex situation. When people are unclear about what makes someone a citizen of a tribe, misconceptions can lead to a change in the law, in this case it could prove costly to Native children.

I personally have no ill will toward Warren or others like her, they have simply been misled, and through no fault of their own they believe that they hold a claim to being Native American. Compared to other groups and individuals out there preying on the misinformed, Warren’s actions are relatively innocuous.

She does, however, add some legitimacy to the myth that Native American heritage is tied to DNA. Heritage is not just who you are biologically. It is about your community. It is the role you play inside of your tribe, large or small. Propagating the notion that a DNA test is all that a person needs to be Native American is damaging to tribes and the sovereignty they have earned through years of struggle and strife. It simplifies a process that was determined through lengthy courtroom battles and legal discussions.

Being Native American is an honor and privilege you are born with. It simply cannot be determined by scientific testing alone.

Brandon Scott is a Cherokee Nation citizen and lifelong resident of Oklahoma. He is the executive editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the nation’s first Native newspaper.


First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com.

source: vox

Marijuana is now for sale (legally) in Canada

Marijuana legalization in Canada is not only a big move for the country; it challenges the entire international drug policy regime.

Marijuana legalization is now in full effect in Canada, with stores open for business as of Wednesday.

The grand opening follows the country’s passage of its marijuana legalization law in June. With the measure, Canada became the first wealthy nation in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational use; only Uruguay legalized marijuana before. (The Netherlands, despite its reputation, has not fully legalized pot.)

More than 100 legal marijuana stores are expected to open on Wednesday, supplied by around 120 licensed growers, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds more stores will likely open in the coming years.

This will allow both Canadians and travelers to the country to legally buy marijuana for recreational use.

There’s one major exception: Ontario, which is Canada’s most populous province, won’t allow marijuana sales until April 2019. The newly elected conservative government there said it needs more time after it replaced previous plans for government-run stores (similar to state-run liquor stores in the US) with plans for private outlets. But residents will be able to buy pot online and get it through the mail in the meantime.

Canada is also only allowing sales of dried flower, tinctures, capsules, and seeds for now, with edibles and concentrates expected later next year.

Canada’s Cannabis Act legalized marijuana possession, home growing, and sales for adults. The federal government is overseeing remaining criminal sanctions (for, say, selling to minors) and the licensing of producers, while provincial governments are supervising sales, distribution, and related regulations — as such, provinces will be able to impose tougher rules, such as raising the minimum age. The statute largely follows recommendations made by a federal task force on marijuana legalization.

None of this may seem too shocking in the US, where nine states have already legalized marijuana for recreational use and 30 states allow it for medicinal purposes. What sets Canada apart, though, is it’s doing this as a country. Previously, the South American nation of Uruguay was the only one that legally allowed marijuana for recreational purposes.

Canada is even breaking international law to do this. Canada, like the US, is part of international drug treaties that explicitly ban legalizing marijuana. Although activists have been pushing to change these treaties for years, they have failed so far — and that means Canada is, in effect, in violation of international law in moving to legalize. (The US argues it’s still in accordance with the treaties because federal law still technically prohibits cannabis, even though some states have legalized it.)

In moving forward, the Canadian government is now walking a fine line: It’s attempting to legalize marijuana to clamp down on the black market for cannabis and provide a safe outlet for adults, but it’s risking making pot more accessible to kids and people with drug use disorders. It is taking a bold step against outdated international drug laws, but it could upset countries like Russia, China, and even the US that have historically adopted a stricter view of the treaties. And while Canadian lawmakers may feel marijuana legalization is right for their country, there’s a risk that legal Canadian pot will spill over to the US — perhaps causing tensions with Canada’s neighbor and one of its closest allies.

Whether Canada is successful in its legalization attempts will depend on how it strikes a balance between these concerns. And depending on how it pulls this off, it may provide a model for other countries interested in legalization — including the US.

The risks and benefits of marijuana legalization in Canada

For Canada, marijuana legalization has been a balancing act from the start.

On one hand, marijuana prohibition has a lot of costs. In Canada, tens of thousands of people were arrested for marijuana offenses each year, ripping communities and families apart as people are thrown in jail or prison and gain criminal records. Enforcement of these laws also cost money, while legalizing and taxing marijuana could bring in extra revenue — although typically not that much, based on Colorado’s experience, where marijuana taxes make up less than 1 percent of the general budget.

The black market for marijuana fuels violence around the world — not only can it lead to conflicts and violence within Canada, but the money from illegally produced and sold pot often went back to drug cartels that then used that money to carry out brutal violence, including murders, beheadings, kidnappings, and torture. Legalization shifts marijuana out of the illicit, potentially violent market toward a legal one that can produce legitimate jobs.

Legalization carries risks, too. It could lead to more use and misuse by making pot cheaper and more available. Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at New York University’s Marron Institute, estimates that in the long term a legal marijuana joint will cost no more to make than, say, a tea bag — since both products come from plants that are fairly easy to grow. It would also be available to anyone (of legal age) in retail outlets after legalization, meaning it would no longer require a shady or secretive meeting with a drug dealer. Those are benefits for people who use marijuana without problems, but easier access could also pose a risk for people who can’t control their cannabis consumption.

Although marijuana isn’t very dangerous compared to some drugs, it does carry some risks: addiction and overuse, accidents, nondeadly overdoses that lead to mental anguish and anxiety, and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes. Still, it’s never been definitively linked to any serious ailments — not deadly overdoses, lung disease, or schizophrenia. And it’s much less likely — around one-tenth so, based on data for fatal car crashes — to cause deadly accidents compared to alcohol, which is legal.

Among those risks, drug policy experts emphasize the risk of overuse and addiction. As Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, has told me, “At some level, we know that spending more than half of your waking hours intoxicated for years and years on end is not increasing the likelihood that you’ll win a Pulitzer Prize or discover the cure for cancer.”

Canada’s marijuana legalization law tries to strike a balance

To this end, Canada is striking a balance unlike that of the US’s legalization experiments so far.

So far in the US, the eight states that have legalized pot sales have done so with a model similar to alcohol. (Vermont has only legalized possession, not retail sales.) In short, they’re setting up their systems to allow a for-profit pot industry to flourish, similar to the alcohol industry.

Drug policy experts, however, often point to the alcohol industry as a warning, not something to be admired and followed for other drugs. For decades, big alcohol has successfully lobbied lawmakers to block tax increases and regulations on alcohol, all while marketing its product as fun and sexy in television programs, such as the Super Bowl, that are viewed by millions of Americans, including children. Meanwhile, excessive drinking is linked to 88,000 deaths each year in the US.

If marijuana companies are able to act like the tobacco and alcohol industries have in the past, there’s a good chance they’ll convince more Americans to try or even regularly use marijuana, and some of the heaviest users may use more of the drug. And as these companies increase their profits, they’ll be able to influence lawmakers in a way that could stifle regulations or other policies that curtail cannabis misuse. All of that will likely prove bad for public health (although likely not as bad as alcohol, since alcohol is simply more dangerous).

There are policies that can curtail this, some of which Canada’s plan will allow.

For example, Canada’s measure restricts marketing and advertising. In the US, this is generally more difficult because the First Amendment protects commercial free speech. (Tobacco marketing is largely prohibited due to a massive legal settlement.) But in Canada, the restrictions could stop marijuana companies from marketing their product in a way that targets, say, children or people who already heavily use cannabis.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Caulkins previously told me. For public health purposes, “every serious researcher around the world thinks it’s a very good idea to restrict advertising of tobacco, alcohol, any dependence-inducing substance.”

Canada’s law also lets provinces entirely handle the distribution and sales of marijuana — up to letting provincial governments directly manage and staff all pot stores by themselves. While state-run liquor stores aren’t unheard of in the US when it comes to alcohol, it’s widely seen as risky in America with marijuana: Since cannabis is illegal at the federal level, asking state employees to run marijuana shops would effectively ask them to violate federal law. But since Canada is legalizing marijuana nationwide in one go, it can do this — and several provinces are taking up this option.

The promise of government-run marijuana shops is that they could be better for public health. In short, government agencies that run shops are generally going to be more mindful of public health and safety, while private companies are only going to be interested in maximizing sales, even if that means making prices very low or selling to minors and people with drug use disorders. Previous research found that states that maintained a government-operated monopoly for alcohol kept prices higher, reduced youth access, and reduced overall levels of use — all benefits to public health.

Again, this is about balancing the risks and benefits of legalization. Legalization may be, overall, a better approach than prohibition, but that doesn’t mean that for-profit, private companies have to be given free rein over the market.

This isn’t important just to Canada. If Canada shows that these policies — and the many other quirks that will make it different to the US — are the right approach to legalization, it could provide a legalization model to the rest of the world that’s very different from what America has done so far.

Canada’s marijuana legalization law violates international law

From the 1960s through the ’80s, much of the world, including the US and Canada, signed on to three major international drug policy treaties: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Drugs of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. Combined, the treaties require participants to limit and even prohibit the possession, use, trade, and distribution of drugs outside of medical and scientific purposes, and work together to stop international drug trafficking.

There is some debate about whether these treaties stop countries from decriminalizing marijuana — when criminal penalties are repealed but civil ones remain in place — and legalizing medical marijuana. But one thing the treaties are absolutely clear on is that illicit drugs aren’t to be allowed for recreational use and certainly not for recreational sales. Yet that’s exactly what Canada is now allowing.

Canada’s decision to legalize pot is the most high-profile rebuke of the international treaties since they were signed — since Canada is a relatively large developed country and is fairly active in the international arena.

In theory, Canada could face diplomatic backlash by legalizing pot. But it’s unclear who would lead such an effort, given that the US, the de facto enforcer of the treaties over the past few decades, is currently allowing states to legalize pot without federal interference.

There’s one way Canada could get around the treaty problem. In the early 2010s, Bolivia moved to allow coca leaf chewing, which was banned from the treaties. To get around this, the country effectively withdrew from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and then rejoined with a “reservation” allowing the use of coca leaves within its own borders. The move could have been blocked by one-third of the parties to the treaty — which would amount to more than 60 nations — but only 15 joined in opposition.

Canada could use a similar process — of withdrawing and then rejoining with a reservation for legal pot — to meet its treaty obligations.

It could also follow Uruguay, which has essentially refused to acknowledge that legalization violates the treaties. Despite warnings from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, no one has taken significant action against Uruguay for its decision.

As for the US, it claims to respect the drug treaties, despite some states’ move to legalize marijuana, with a clever argument: It’s true that multiple states have legalized pot, but the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, so the nation is still technically in line, even if a few states are not. Canada could not try this route with national legalization.

So far, Canadian officials seem to be taking something like the Uruguayan approach — and shrugging off the international violation.

If Canada pulls this off, it could provide a model for other countries to relax their drug laws — and particularly their marijuana laws — without violating international treaty obligations or, at the very least, without getting punished for disobeying the treaties.

Such a move would come at a very crucial time in international drug policy: After the UN’s special session on drugs in 2016, drug policy reformers are putting more pressure to reform the global drug control regime. Canadian legalization gives these reformers an opening by showing that if the treaties aren’t changed, they may soon be rendered meaningless as countries move ahead with their own reforms anyway — even if it puts them in violation of international drug law. And that could open up the rest of the world to legalizing pot.

It’s not just, then, that Canada is changing its own drug laws. Canada’s steps — from its rebuke of international drug treaties to how it will regulate cannabis — could affect the future of marijuana policy worldwide.

For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.

source: vox

How meditation and psychedelic drugs could reduce political partisanship

Yes, seriously.

What if I told you that the solution to political tribalism was astonishingly — almost embarrassingly — simple?

Maybe, just maybe, it all comes down to believing that everything is one.

According to a series of new studies on the belief in oneness by Kate Diebels and Mark Leary, psychologists at Duke University, the basic way we understand the universe, and our place in it, goes a long way in determining how we relate to other people. By “oneness,” the authors mean a belief that everything in the world is part of the same whole, and that the illusion of separation is just that — an illusion.

And it turns out “belief in the oneness of everything,” as they put it, is a profound and potentially revolutionary perspective for these awful times.

It’s impossible to talk about “oneness” without careening into hippy-dippy platitudes about peace and love and harmony on earth. I get it. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that our lack of oneness, our inability to see the world through the eyes of other people, to find some ground for mutual understanding, is likely our biggest moral failure.

If simply changing our orientation to the world could radically transform our politics, we should know about it, even if we can’t quite achieve it. Plus, there is actual science to back this up, so it isn’t merely an exercise in metaphysics.

So in that spirit, let’s take a look at the research, its implications, and two tools that might help us cultivate oneness right now.

The power of belief

If “belief in the oneness of everything” sounds fuzzy, well, that’s because it is. But it’s a perfectly sensible worldview.

Scientists like Albert Einstein and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama have argued that everything that exists is fundamentally connected, interdependent, part of the same substance or process, and that the sense of separation we feel is an illusion born of self-consciousness.

We can certainly debate whether or not this is true, but an even more intriguing question is what are the consequences of believing it? Until now, we haven’t had a reliable test of this proposition.

Diebels and Leary published two related studies in the June 2018 issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology with a total of 513 participants. In the first one, they established how often their participants actually thought about “oneness”: 20.3 percent of participants replied “often” or “many times,” while 25.9 percent said “seldom” and 12.5 percent had “never” thought about it.

They created a scale to measure belief in oneness, which consisted of the following six items:

Beyond surface appearances, everything is fundamentally one.

Although many seemingly separate things exist, they all are part of the same whole.

At the most basic level of reality, everything is one.

The separation among individual things is an illusion; in reality everything is one.

Everything is composed of the same basic substance, whether one thinks of it as spirit, consciousness, quantum processes, or whatever.

The same basic essence permeates everything that exists.

To gauge belief, they asked each participant to rate how easy it was for them to believe each of the six statements on a 5-point scale (1 = very difficult for me to believe this is true, 5 = very easy for me to believe this is true). The higher a person scored, the less solipsistic they were, which is to say, their identity extended beyond themselves to include the broader world. But not just with the natural world; they also felt more connected to other people, people they’ve never met.

If the primary obstacle to empathy is an incapacity to identify with someone else’s experience, it’s easy to see how viewing the world in this way might resolve — or at least mitigate — that problem.

The second study explored how someone’s value system was impacted by belief in oneness. They found, unsurprisingly, that greater compassion for other human beings scaled with the intensity of the belief in oneness. So the more someone believed that everyone and everything was connected, the more likely they were to recognize the humanity they shared with other people.

Leary, one of the researchers involved, is careful not to overstate the significance of the findings. “Although believing in oneness is clearly associated with personal and social benefits,” he told me, “strictly speaking, we do not know for certain that having a belief in oneness causes these beneficial effects.”

“It’s possible that people who come more easily to such a belief differ from people who don’t,” he added, “so that they are already more concerned about other people and the natural world even before developing the belief.”

To say definitively that belief in oneness is the cause of an extended empathic circle, participants would need to be randomly exposed or not exposed to arguments that might change their beliefs. But the evidence we have now is tantalizingly suggestive.

So what are the political implications of all this?

Antidotes to tribalism

Phrases like “tribalism” and “identity politics” are probably overused these days, and their application often obscures more than it reveals. But we definitely have a problem. A 2016 Pew Research Center study, for example, showed that roughly 40 percent of Republicans and Democrats believe the other party’s policies are so dangerous that they pose an existential threat to the nation.

This divide mostly manifests across party lines, but that’s because our system is designed to activate that particular identity. The cleavages run much, much deeper than party, and you can break them down along a number of dimensions — race, geography, income, education, etc. When group identities solidify, everyone outside our immediate experience can become an “other,” a member of some out-group whose well-being has nothing to do with our own.

Even as parties appear more ideologically diverse than they once did, contempt for the other side has only intensified. Much of this is the result of living in a fragmented information landscape, in which news consumption is tantamount to shopping. If you have a particular worldview or are invested in a particular ideological story, you know where to go to have that worldview and story beamed back at you — conservatives go to Fox News, liberals to MSNBC.

Where, then, does that leave us?

Tribalism feels like an intractable problem, something that runs so deep it’s not clear what we can do about it. But the research above points toward something like a solution, namely getting more people to believe that everything is one.

The question now is how do we cultivate belief in oneness?

When I asked Leary this question, he said we ought to do it the way we would any other belief: “teach people the merits of believing it.” And you can make the case for oneness on secular, scientific, or spiritual grounds, meaning it can be tailored to people with different preexisting beliefs.

Psychedelics and meditation

Allow me to suggest two additional remedies: psychedelics and meditation.

In his latest book about psychedelics, Michael Pollan argues that we face two enormous and related problems as a society right now. The first is an environmental crisis, which he says stems from our perceived distance from nature. For all its trappings, the modern technocratic world has encouraged us to treat nature as an object, something to be mastered and instrumentalized.

The second problem is tribalism, or our impulse to reduce the world to a zero-sum contest between “us” and “them.” Both of these problems are about disconnectedness. As Pollan told me in an interview, they’re “about seeing the other, whether that other is a plant or an animal, or a person of another faith or another race, as objects.”

But if you can step back and view the world as alive, as something of which you’re a small part, and if you can see fellow human beings as sharing that condition, then it becomes much more personally painful to abuse the planet or mistreat other people.

Earlier this year, I wrote an essay for Vox about my own experience with ayahuasca, a plant concoction that contains the natural hallucinogen known as DMT. It exploded my emotional barriers and, for a moment at least, connected me to something much bigger than myself. I’m still not sure what that thing was, or what it meant — all I can say is that I felt unimportant and totally liberated from the petty vanities that normally dominate my consciousness.

This experience wasn’t a psychological panacea. My ego persists, and checking it remains a daily — often losing — battle. But the event altered my self-understanding at a deep, instinctual level, and the more we learn about the neuroscience of psychedelics, the more common this experience seems to be.

Robert Wright has made a similar argument about the power of meditation in his book Why Buddhism Is True. “One of the things that’s most lacking in the world is not emotional empathy, it’s cognitive empathy,” he told me in a recent interview. Emotional empathy is more about sharing a physical feeling with someone, as though their emotions were contagious, whereas cognitive empathy is about understanding another person’s perspective. “We have trouble seeing things from the point of view of other people,” he says. “That is more urgently needed than emotional empathy.”

Meditation is a corrective to this problem. By focusing your mind on the present, you start to see your thoughts and emotions as fleeting waves. Which is why seasoned meditators often experience a loss of the sense of self and a greater awareness of other people, and other forms of consciousness.

Buddhist philosophy holds that the “self” is illusory and that our suffering is the result of clinging to impermanent objects, like feelings and thoughts. For Buddhists, the belief in a fixed self traps you in a delusion about who and what you are. If you meditate long enough, if you pay attention to your moment-to-moment experience, this story dissolves and you discover that all things are fundamentally interdependent.

Losing a sense of self, some Buddhists argue, is not the same as feeling oneness with the whole world. You could just as easily conclude that life is interdependent in the sense that life depends on other life for survival, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all is one. Regardless, using psychedelics (ideally with a trained guide) or practicing meditation as a means to drop the illusion of selfhood puts you halfway to realizing that other people aren’t so “other.”

But this is hard to do. We’re stuck with brains that evolved under very different conditions: For most of human history, we lived in small groups, and as a result, we’re wired to see the world in tribal terms. Tribalism is just a collective outgrowth of egoism; it’s about placing a wall between one group and another, just as the ego places a wall between an individual and the world.

No, this won’t fix everything

There are real fights in the world over resources and power and how these goods ought to be distributed in society. These disputes, and the values driving them, are unlikely to fade away. Indeed, if everyone valued the same things equally, there would be no need for politics in the first place.

But there is utility in understanding what a less tribal world would look like and how we might build it. We have these tools right in front of us, tools that expand consciousness and cut through the illusion of selfhood, and now we have evidence that shows their potentially transformative effects.

As Leary told me, “for people who wish to promote more egalitarian views in society, this research suggests that fostering beliefs in the fundamental oneness of all things — or at least in the oneness of all living things — may nudge people’s sentiments in a more positive direction.”

Moral and political principles are based on a whole range of more fundamental beliefs about other people and how the world works. If this research is right, “oneness” is one of these core beliefs, and we should do everything we can to teach and cultivate it.

Does that mean everyone should shoehorn LSD into their morning cereal? Absolutely not. In the long run, meditation is a safer and more sustainable path to self-transcendence.

Maybe it’s quixotic to say that the world would be less atomized and more compassionate if everyone meditated and took psychedelics, but that doesn’t make it untrue. On the contrary, there’s every reason to believe that that’s exactly what would happen.

source: vox

Bail reform, which could save millions of innocent people from jail, explained

Shell Aids Over 50, 000 IDPs in the North-East

Alkasim Abdulkadir, Abuja: Over 50,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Dikwa area of Borno State have benefited from Shell Petroleum Development Company’s (SPDC) $2 million programme of broad ranging interventions in health, security, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition services in the last one year.

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) and employees from across Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN) also contributed $1.1m to Family Health International (FHI) in a year.

In a recently released humanitarian report, Shell noted that in 2017, the oil companies provided large-scale humanitarian assistance to IDPs in the North East.

“More than 50,000 IDPs have benefited, including successful containment of a cholera outbreak in Dikwa late in the year. Separately, the Shell Group contributed around $2m to leading global humanitarian organization, Mercy Corps, to provide emergency assistance to 1,000 vulnerable families,” the report stated.

(NTA)

FG Disburses N1.5 billion to 20, 344 Poor Households in Bauchi

Alkasim Abdulkadir, Abuja: The federal government has issued more than N1.5 billion to 20,344 poor households in Bauchi State under its Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme.

This was disclosed by its coordinator in the state, Jibrin Yusuf. Mr Yusuf told officials of the state council of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) who visited his office on Monday in Bauchi that the money had been disbursed from 2016 to date.

The money was disbursed to very poor households to ease their hardships and encourage them to send their children to school.

According to Mr. Yusuf, an additional 2, 969 households would soon be inducted into the scheme to raise the total beneficiaries to 23, 313 across the state.

Explaining that more than 80 percent of the beneficiaries were women care-givers in their various households, Mr. Yusuf said that, “The CCT programme also trains beneficiaries in techniques, savings groups and skills to improve the beneficiaries’ living conditions.”

Earlier, NAWOJ Chairperson, Bulak Afsa said the visit was to collaborate with the CCT office to reach out to more women not only to benefit from the scheme but also offer them skills to live on their own.

She expressed the readiness of NAWOJ to sensitise existing registered cooperatives and savings’ groups in the state to access federal government loans and other social intervention programmes.

(NTA)

NNPC Denies Holding $3.5bn Subsidy Fund

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has denied claims that it has in its custody 3.5 billion dollars Subsidy fund.

NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, on Tuesday.

He explained that at the hit of the shortage of products supply at the close of last year, the National Assembly asked the NNPC to do everything possible to stem the hiccups.

Ughamadu said the corporation initiated the move to raise a revolving fund of 1.05 billion dollars, since the corporation was, and still the sole importer and supplier of white products in the country.

He noted that ever since, the fund had been domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, adding that at no time was it in the custody of the NNPC.

Ughamadu said the fund, called the National Fuel Support Fund, had been jointly managed by the NNPC, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Other managers include the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OGF), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF).

He further clarified that NNPC did not independently spend a dime of the fund which was to ensure stability in the petroleum products supply in the country.

He added that the corporation was fully aware that it was only the National Assembly that had the statutory responsibility to appropriate on petroleum subsidy matters.(NAN)

 

(NTA)

UNOCHA Holds Workshop on Humanitarian Response Plan – @NePcni

On October 2, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) hosted a workshop on the 2019-2021 Humanitarian Response Plan. The workshop which held at Rockview Royale Hotel brought together representatives of federal government, state government, donor community, Civil Society Organisations and international development organisations.

Also present at the event were the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning both representing the federal government. The purpose of workshop was to discuss the strategic objectives of the plan, the numbers of people in need and people targeted for the new humanitarian response plan which is a multi-year plan from 2019-2021.

The various sector actors made presentations on the Humanitarian Response Plan and fielded feedback from participants. Partners highlighted protection as a major concern and it was emphasised that the issue in the Lake Chad basin is a “protection crisis”, echoing feedback from the ‘Oslo 2’ conference in Berlin.

There was a consensus that protection needs to be mainstreamed in all sectors of intervention and it was noted that not enough proposals to fund protection projects have been submitted for funding although proposals for CSO capacity building for which $1.5 million has been earmarked are welcome. Partners drew attention to issues of access, visas and importation of materials as major challenges to their operations.

The participants also called for improvements in Civilian – Military coordination and regular strategic level engagements to discuss issues with the senior leadership of the lead federal actors, PCNI and Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

While the representatives of state governments expressed concern about the coordination of various ongoing intervention programmes, it was emphasised that the coordination is to be driven by the state and local authorities.

Partners noted that in many local government areas, the level of governmental presence is too low, with significant institutional deficits and too few state actors on the ground for the partners to engage with.

The state governments also called for more long-term interventions with concentrated investments in infrastructure and human capacity development, with in-built structures that guarantee sustainability.

It was agreed that the humanitarian-development nexus needs to be incorporated in the 2019-2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, and a clear and comprehensive synergy between both dimensions needs to be reflected in the HRP for its success. In terms of positive trends, the workshop recognized that notable improvements have been registered. For example, an improvement in data collection and analysis has led to greater accuracy in the numbers and projections that guide planning and operations. Significantly, the total number of people in need has dropped by 8% from last year to 7.1million while targeted assistance to 6.2 million which is 2% up from last year due to the arrival of people from hard to reach areas in need of aid. Reflecting the strategic emphasis and consensus among partners on the recovery phase, there will be a gradual transition over the next three years from humanitarian assistance to development, with significant scale down of the former post 2021.

The first draft of the HRP will be ready for review between 5-9 November with the final draft to be presented for endorsement on 28th November, and the global launch scheduled for the first week of December.

(NTA)

Update on BRISIN Recruitment

Image result for job portal

The Federal Government has redirected applicants on a new Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN)  Employment Portal to be used for the recruitment application.

Dr Anthony Uwa, the Head of BRISIN Implementation told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Tuesday in Abuja that it had become necessary following the difficulty applicants encountered using the previous portal.

Uwa said the difficulties were as a result of some technical issues which would soon be resolved.

He said applicants who had started the application process should not be alarmed as they would be able to complete the exercise using the new portal.

He urged applicants that rather than using the previous www.brisin.gov.ng used for the exercise, they should use www.brisin.ng.

“Please be informed that the brisin recruitment registration which before now has been on www.brisin.gov.ng is being re-channelled to www.brisin.ng which is the BRISIN Employment Data Base portal.

“The reason is that BRISIN is building the first comprehensive data base to include both employed and unemployed with job identifications and verifications.

“For this reason, www.brisin.gov.ng cannot be used for the recruitment as there has been a little technical break which is being rectified and will be back soon.

“The www.brisin.gov.ng will continue its role on information to public on the importance and benefit of BRISIN to Nigeria and its citizens.

“We apologiae for the inconveniences this delay could have caused applicants,” Uwaleke said.

NAN reports that BRISIN is an integrated system for the collection, storage and distribution of information to support the management of the economy.

The Federal Government recently opened the portal for the recruitment of 5,000 unemployed Nigerians in the FCT in the pilot phase to drive the implementation of the scheme. (NAN)

(NTA)

“26% UNESCO Funding Benchmark” a Myth

UNESCO

Prof. Peter Okebukola, former Executive Secretary, National University Commission (NUC), says the acclaimed 26 per cent United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) funding benchmark was nothing but a myth.

Okebukola disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of the 8th Convocation and honorary award of doctorate degree of Caleb University, Imota, Lagos.

NAN reports that some Nigerian educational bodies and unions had agitated for the implementation of “UNESCO-recommended” 26 per cent of national budget benchmark and six per cent of the gross domestic products (GDP) for funding of Education.

“There is nothing like 26 per cent UNESCO benchmark anywhere, it is just a myth.

“In 2001, I was the Executive Secretary of NUC and I started hearing this 26 per cent UNESCO benchmark and wondered where it was coming from because I have been consulting for UNESCO.

“I have been writing on funding the university education everywhere, so I wonder where the recommendation was coming from and I told the then Minister of Education in October 2001 to attend the UNESCO general conference.

“I went to the Director General of UNESCO during the conference and asked about the 26 per cent, but he also wondered which 26 per cent I was talking about,” he said.

Okebukola noted that the acclaimed 26 per cent benchmark had become so popular even among the elite because when you keep telling lies every day it becomes like truth.

He challenged Nigerians to go to Ghana and other countries in world and also check literatures for confirmation.

According to him, they will not find such recommendation anywhere other than in Nigeria.

The NUC boss said the acclaimed benchmark was made popular because it came from a union in the education system and the public were also quoting it.

Okebukola explained that when it comes to issues of funding, UNESCO do not usually peg any percentage.

According to him, UNESCO rather encourages all member states to provide financial resources for the education sector to meet the contextual need of their countries.

“UNESCO just advise countries to examine the decay in your education system and see what kind of money you can invest to address the need, which can be more than 30 or even 50 per cent, ” he said. (NAN)

(NTA)

Kachikwu , Baru Advocate Gas Economy for Nigeria

Dr Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporate (NNPC) and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu said the huge gas deposit in the country was a veritable tool for economic diversification.

They both made the assertion on Monday at the Nigerian Gas Association 11th International Conference and Exhibition holding in Abuja.

Presenting a keynote address, Baru said Nigeria was more of a gas than an oil nation.

He spoke on the topic `Gas as catalyst for sustainable national growth.’

” With the huge deposit of gas in the country, it is germane that we leverage on the potential to grow our economy.

” Gas has significant impact on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it impacts on agriculture, power and other sectors which influences economic growth, ” he said.

He noted that the in the last eight years, government had invested in about 500 km of gas pipeline infrastructure adding that there was the need for more to be done.

“In the last eight years, we have completed and commissioned over 500 km gas pipelines which are now delivering gas to our power plants and industries.

“Some of the completed pipelines include the Oben-Geregu (196km), Escarvos-Warri-Oben (110km), Emuren-Itoki (50km), Itoki-Olurunshogo (31km), Imo River -Alaoji (24km) and Ukanafun-calabar pipelines (128km).”

He said that the corporation under the current administration had invested in gas pipeline projects and also signed MOU’s on gas development.

Baru said the NNPC is completing the construction of the 48 inches by 130km Obiafu-Obrikom-Oben (0B3) East-west interconnection pipelines which would deliver 2Bscdf of gas.

” We expect to complete and commission this pipeline early 2019.

“In addition, we are completing the expansion of the existing Escravos to Lagos pipeline (ELPS) to double the installed capacity of ELPS from 1.1Bscfd to 2.2Bscfd.

“This will be commissioned by the end of this year, ” he added.

Commenting on gas production, he said that the current average gas production in the country was in the region of 8.5Bscfd, out of which about 43 per cent or 3.7Bscfd was exported.

He added that 3.2 per cent or 2.7Bscfd was utilised for gas re-injection or gas lift, 18 per cent or 1.5 Bscfdwas for domestic and industrial use.

According to him, the balance of 7 per cent or 0.6Bscfd is flared daily.

This he said was unfortunate adding that efforts were on to stop the gas flaring.

Baru further noted that pipeline vandalism, funding among others remained a major challenge in the effort to develop the sector.

In his remarks, Kachikwu reiterated the need to create enabling environment for gas to lead in the economic diversification in the country.

He said that Nigeria had all it takes to broaden it’s economy through gas, given its huge deposit of natural gas.

The minister commended entrepreneurs striving to develop the sector and assured of improved policy and legal framework for the growth of the sector.

He said that a review of the 2008 gas policy was on going to tackle all issues concerning the gas sector. (NAN)

(NTA)

Kebbi Govt. to Commence Aerial Spray of Rice Farms

Image result for Spray of Rice Farms

Following locusts invasion of rice farms in Kebbi, the state government said on Monday it had deployed helicopters for the aerial spray of the affected farms.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the affected farms are largely located in Ambursa near Birnin Kebbi, the state capital.
“The aerial spray will commence in the next two days,” Abubakar Dakingari, the spokesman of Gov. Abubakar Bagudu said.
“Chemical application and spray would commence in all affected places in the state. Farmers should report any further outbreak of any pest across the state for immediate solution.”
He said the government would continue to support farmers maintain the massive rice production going on in the state.
NAN recalls that a group of rice farmers, led by Alhaji Shehu Maigishiri, had raised the alarm over the invasion of their farms by locusts and sought for immediate government intervention to avert massive losses.(NAN)
(NTA)

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3 key moments in Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke’s last Senate debate

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) face off in a debate at the KENS 5 studios on October 16, 2018 in San Antonio.

Ted Cruz tried to paint Beto O’Rourke as an “extreme” liberal in their last Senate debate. O’Rourke called him a liar.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and his Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke just had what was likely to be their last face-to-face debate before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

As they sparred over Medicare for All, the GOP tax cuts, and border security, both candidates continued to try to appeal to their bases in a race that has captured national attention and money and built up long-held Democratic hopes of turning Texas blue.

Cruz argued that O’Rourke is dangerously liberal, while O’Rourke called Cruz out-of-step and beholden to Republican donors.

Cruz emphasized that O’Rourke is too “radical” for Texas — trying to paint him as more to the left than progressive Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

O’Rourke, on the other hand, repeatedly called Cruz a liar and accused him of taking votes to please Republican donors, rather than working for the people of Texas. He even adopted a nickname from President Trump: “Sen. Cruz is not going to be honest with you,” O’Rourke said at one point. “He’s dishonest, that’s why the president called him ‘lying Ted,’ and that’s why the nickname stuck, it’s true.”

O’Rourke raised eye-popping $38 million in just three months, the most of any Senate candidate. There is undeniable hype surrounding his candidacy. But he is still the underdog in deep-red Texas. Even though some polling has shown the race in close single digits, Cruz has been in the lead in every single poll and is currently leading by 7 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

O’Rourke still has another televised town hall with CNN that Cruz has said he won’t attend, but Tuesday night’s debate was the last chance for both candidates to be on stage and make their closing arguments together.

Here are three key moments.

Cruz is challenged on his vote for GOP tax cuts — and O’Rourke paints him as corrupt

The sweeping GOP tax cuts became a moment of contention in the Texas Senate debate when Cruz was asked by moderator Jason Whitely to square his longtime stance to not increase the national deficit with voting for a GOP tax bill that is projected to increase the national deficit by over $1 trillion.

Over his career in the Senate, Cruz was a noted critic of government spending under the Obama administration, calling it “immoral” spending that would add to the national debt. But when it came for Republicans running deficits, Cruz went on the defense.

“I’m proud to have supported the tax cut, the tax cut is producing enormous benefits for the state of Texas and for the country,” Cruz responded. Soon after, Whitely challenged Cruz by asking about the projection of the Congressional Budget Office, Joint Committee on Taxation, and other nonpartisan groups that the tax cut will in fact add $1.6 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

“No it wouldn’t — that projection is wrong,” Cruz said. “The reason we have deficit and debt is not because we cut taxes and grow the economy. We need to control the out of control spending by cutting things like socialized medicine.”

O’Rourke used the opportunity to paint Cruz as corrupt, saying he voted for tax cuts and other Republican bills at the direction of donors and PACs — and highlighting his own pledge not to take PAC money.

“Follow the money,” O’Rourke said. “Those tax cuts will disproportionately flow to corporations who are already sitting on record piles of cash in a country that is riven with income inequality unseen seen since the last Gilded Age.”

A race of “extremes”

O’Rourke is running as a progressive candidate in Texas, and Cruz seized on that. Cruz wanted voters who watched Tuesday’s debate to believe O’Rourke’s vision for America was one with socialized medicine bogged down by long wait times, extremely high costs for the government, and open borders that would lead to immigrants streaming into the US.

Cruz’s stance on immigration is largely focused on securing the border. He’s interested in expanding HB-1 visas for skilled immigrants, but railed against amnesty for immigrants who arrived in the US illegally. O’Rourke, on the other hand, wants to pass the DREAM Act and provide a path to citizenship for DREAMers, the young unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children.

When it came to the immigration issue, Cruz played to fears about crime south of the border, saying O’Rourke opposed even the most basic border security.

“Congressman O’Rourke not only opposes a wall...he wants to tear down the ones we have,” Cruz said, noting the wall between O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, Texas, and neighboring Juarez, Mexico. “There’s a wall there, that wall is one of the tools you use to protect us.”

O’Rourke shot back, saying the immigration policy policy he supports is about more than border walls — including a pathway to citizenship DREAMers.

“I care about the safety of every single person in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “No wall is going to solve legitimate security concerns, but smart policy will.”

Throughout the debate, Cruz called O’Rourke “extreme,” saying he was to the left of Bernie Sanders. There’s a strategy to this; as Texas political scientist James Henson told Vox’s Tara Golshan, Cruz is trying to define O’Rourke negatively because his name ID is still relatively low compared to the Republican senators.

One of the repeated attacks Cruz has lobbed at O’Rourke is that he would be weak on crime and not support law enforcement. That was something O’Rourke seemed eager to address on Tuesday; he highlighted his support for local law enforcement multiple times.

The debate showed two candidates still trying to appeal to the Democratic and Republican bases

Fundamentally, O’Rourke and Cruz’s messaging — and the voters they’re trying to appeal to — hasn’t really changed since they first started campaigning. Cruz is very much appealing to the state’s conservative base by attempting to paint his opponent as somewhat of a left-wing boogeyman. And he has good reason to; older, whiter voters in Texas are more likely to turn out, and more likely to vote Republican.

So, predictably, Cruz hit at that message again on Tuesday. As the men debated health care and O’Rourke’s support for Medicare-for-all, Cruz suggested that O’Rourke wanted to add illegal immigrants to the program, thus taking it away from senior citizens.

“The cost would be immense,” Cruz said. “He wants to put everyone who hasn’t paid into Medicare on Medicare. That would bankrupt Medicare.”

O’Rourke is making a noticeable effort to reach out to the state’s nonwhite populations — notably African-Americans and Latinos — by talking about police brutality, race relations, and the importance of immigrants in the United States. It’s something he brought up in the first Senate debate in September, but didn’t mention as much on Tuesday night. Instead, O’Rourke focused more on Latino voters, reiterating his support for the DREAM Act.

O’Rourke is undoubtedly trying the riskier tactic to pull off a win in Texas, as nonwhite voters — especially Latino voters — tend to have much lower voter turnout rates. Whether they do come out for O’Rourke in November will tell us whether something big has changed in the Lone Star State — or not.

source: vox